I saw a very interesting feature in Fast Company magazine about Anthony Bourdain and his mini media empire. I've watched his shows for years, so why not weigh in?
1. No one has been that drunk that often on camera since Dean Martin. And I heard Dino was faking it sometimes, so Tony wins. We're talking blotto and 'faced. But he's a fun drunk, so it's entertaining. I read somewhere that he barely drinks at all when he's home for a few weeks between shows, so what he does is clean out, binge, clean out, binge, and repeat. Seems to work for him. He appears pretty healthy.
2. As much as I would like to think of myself as a bad boy in Bourdain's mold, the truth is that my wife and I travel more like Rick Steves: We go to interesting places, catch some culture, history, and art, then explore the city on foot with plenty of time for shopping, cafe sitting, and people watching. Not so hip, but it's the truth.
3. Bourdain's bad boy act has earned him a lot of viewers, though many people can't stand the sight of him and avoid his shows like an airborne virus. Certainly, he's a bit impressed with himself, with frequent takes, often shot from below and in slow motion, showing him strolling through an exotic land- or city-scape modeling his Ray Bans.
4. For a chef and food expert his critiques when eating surprisingly often amount to nothing more than "Wow, that's good." That's preferable, though, to his celebrity-chef voice-over voice. "This is chef so-and-so, and no one in the world right now is doing more interesting things with baby turnips, and he's doing it right here in his foodie stronghold outside of Portland, Oregon, where staggeringly hip people with ink and beards have raised food snobbery to high art." And, yes, we've heard 75 times that Tony likes meat on a stick.
5. It's actually when he's on the streets where the vendors and small shops sell that meat on a stick, that Bourdain is at his best. He's not a food snob himself, and he really gives a good sense of what street life is like around the world, especially in Asia. He also goes on these adventures with a variety of non-food people, which is also good.
6. His interactions with non-food people really make his shows interesting and successful. He talks to artists, writers, journalists, musicians, business people, and in those conversations you can learn more about the strengths and troubles of a region than you will ever learn on most news shows. Bourdain is a true humanist and an empathetic listener, which is a nice contrast or complement to Punk Bourdain.
7. And finally, he really is a good writer, even if some of his shtick is formulaic. I find the formula amusing, so I'm on board.
8. And one more thing. His energy and industry are impressive. I thought for sure after No Reservations he would quit the travel game and do things closer to home. But, no, then he showed up on CNN. You go, Tony!